Croatia has moved up rankings of the world’s most powerful passports, the latest Henley Passport Index for 2023 Q3 just released this week shows.
Japan has been knocked off the top spot on for the first time in five years and bumped into 3rd place, according to the latest ranking, which is based on exclusive and official data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
Singapore is now officially the most powerful passport in the world, with its citizens able to visit 192 travel destinations out of 227 around the world visa-free. Germany, Italy, and Spain all move up into 2nd place with visa-free access to 190 destinations, and Japanese passport holders join those of six other nations — Austria, Finland, France, Luxembourg, South Korea, and Sweden — in 3rd place with access to189 destinations without a prior visa.
Croatia, which ranked 18th equal at the start of 2023, is now ranked 14th equal on the latest ranking with visa-free travel to 175 countries around the world.
The UK appears to have finally turned the corner after a six-year decline, jumping up two places on the latest ranking to 4th place — a position it last held in 2017. The US, on the other hand, continues its now decade-long slide down the index, plummeting a further two places to 8th spot with access to just 184 destinations visa-free.
Both the UK and the US jointly held 1st place on the index nearly 10 years ago in 2014 but have been on a downward trajectory ever since. Afghanistan remains entrenched at the bottom of the Henley Passport Index, with a visa-free access score of just 27, followed by Iraq (score of 29), and Syria (score of 30) — the three weakest passports in the world.
The general trend over the history of the 18-year-old ranking has been towards greater travel freedom, with the average number of destinations travelers are able to access visa-free nearly doubling from 58 in 2006 to 109 in 2023. However, the global mobility gap between those at the top and bottom of the index is now wider than it has ever been, with top-ranked Singapore able to access 165 more destinations visa-free than Afghanistan.
Dr. Christian H. Kaelin, Chairman of Henley & Partners and the inventor of the passport index concept, says only eight countries worldwide have less visa-free access today than they did a decade ago while others have been more successful in securing greater travel freedom for their citizens.
“The UAE has added an impressive 107 destinations to its visa-free score since 2013, resulting in a massive leap of 44 places in the ranking over the past 10 years from 56th to 12th position. This is almost double the next biggest climber, Colombia, which has enjoyed a jump of 28 places in the ranking to sit in 37th spot. Ukraine and China are also among the Top 10 countries with the most improved rankings over the past decade. Far more than just a travel document that defines our freedom of movement, a strong passport also provides significant financial freedoms in terms of international investment and business opportunities. Global connectivity and access have become indispensable features of wealth creation and preservation, and its value will only grow as geopolitical volatility and regional instability increase.”
America’s diminishing passport power
Of the countries sitting in the Top 10, the US has seen the smallest increase in its score on the Henley Passport Index over the past decade, securing visa-free access to just 12 additional destinations between 2013 and 2023. Singapore, by comparison, has increased its score by 25, pushing it five places up the ranking over the past 10 years to number one spot.
Exploring the links between visa-free access and openness
Henley & Partners has conducted exclusive new research into the relationship between a country’s openness to foreigners — how many nations it allows to cross its borders visa-free — and its own citizens’ travel freedom, gauged using the Henley Passport Index. The new Henley Openness Index ranks all 199 countries worldwide according to the number of nationalities they permit entry to without a prior visa.
The Top 20 ‘most open’ countries are all small island nations or African states, except for Cambodia. There are 12 completely open countries that offer visa-free or visa-on-arrival entry to all 198 passports in the world (not counting their own), namely: Burundi, Comoro Islands, Djibouti, Guinea-Bissau, Maldives, Micronesia, Mozambique, Rwanda, Samoa, Seychelles, Timor-Leste, and Tuvalu. At the bottom of the Henley Openness Index, four countries score zero, permitting no visa-free access for any passport: namely, Afghanistan, North Korea, Papua New Guinea, and Turkmenistan. They are followed by five countries that provide visa-free access to fewer than five other nationalities: namely, Libya, Bhutan, Eritrea, Equatorial Guinea, and India.